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Thoughts on the AP Poll: Duke men's basketball stays at No. 9 in latest rankings

Duke remained at No. 9 in Monday's AP Poll.
Duke remained at No. 9 in Monday's AP Poll.

With another week of college basketball in the books, it's time for the Blue Zone's thoughts on the latest AP Poll. This week, Duke stayed put in the rankings at No. 9: 

Duke stays at No. 9, rest of ACC remains unrepresented

The Blue Devils rebounded from their Jan. 18 loss to Florida State with a nail-biting triumph against Clemson at home and a confident road win away at Louisville, but held their No. 9 ranking in the top 25 for the second consecutive week. Despite a hectic seven days that saw top-five teams like then-No. 5 Kansas, then-No. 4 Baylor and then-No. 3 Arizona all lose, Duke saw its place unchanged. Some may feel aggrieved at this from a record standpoint, considering the Blue Devils own wins this season against a pair of top-five teams in Kentucky and Gonzaga.

Granted, aside from Duke, the ACC still isn’t represented at all in the top 25. Though high-flying Miami leads the conference, it still has five losses to its name, including a pair to Florida State and one to each of Alabama, UCF and Dayton. North Carolina has struggled, Virginia is rebuilding, Wake Forest has fallen off after a bright start and surging Notre Dame is still a mystery. Basketball’s traditional powerhouse conference remains a relative afterthought in this week’s, and this year’s, top-25 bubble with the exception of the national title-contending Blue Devils.

Amid the strength of the other Power Five conferences and offensive power on other rosters (looking at you, Jabari Smith), head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s men will have to prepare for a postseason test much more difficult than the ACC slate they’ll undertake prior.

SEC rises as Big 12 tumbles

Last weekend’s Big 12-SEC Challenge saw many of the country’s premier teams face off in high-stakes contests, but it was the SEC that came up trumps as No. 5 Kentucky trounced Kansas 80-62, Alabama continued its remarkable upset streak to include Baylor among its defeats of Gonzaga, Houston and LSU, No. 1 Auburn cemented its place as the nation’s best against Oklahoma and No. 22 Tennessee nearly erased a 17-point deficit in a heartbreaking 52-51 loss to Texas. 

The ACC’s down year has opened up the gates for new teams from different conferences, and the SEC, as this weekend showed, is hungry to take its crown with two teams, Auburn and Kentucky, in the top five, the latter for the first time in over two years. The Big 12, despite its losses, remains a force in the top 25 with Baylor and Kansas as representatives in the top 10 and three more—Texas Tech, Iowa State and Texas—rounding out the rankings.

Big 10, Pac 12 cement their footholds

If the most recent poll saw the SEC rise, Big 12 fall and Duke hold its spot as the ACC’s only contending hope, it also further reinforced the strength of the Big 10 and Pac 12. No. 4 Purdue climbed two spots following a narrow 81-78 win against No. 16 Ohio State, and No. 11 Wisconsin and No. 13 Michigan State retained their places in the top-25 alongside No. 18 Illinois, who rose six places after close wins against the Spartans and Northwestern.

On the West Coast, No. 3 UCLA pounded Arizona by 16 to re-establish themselves in the top three, though the Wildcats remain seventh after just their second loss in a very impressive debut season for head coach Tommy Lloyd. USC continues to punch above its weight as well, checking in at No. 19.

Complete rankings:

1. Auburn

2. Gonzaga

3. UCLA

4. Purdue

5. Kentucky

6. Houston

7. Arizona

8. Baylor

9. Duke

10. Kansas

11. Wisconsin

12. Villanova

13. Michigan State

14. Texas Tech

15. Providence

16. Ohio State

17. Connecticut

18. Illinois

19. Southern California

20. Iowa State

21. Xavier

22. Tennessee

23. Texas

24. Marquette

25. LSU

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